So, once a year you get that notice in the mail that your dog is due for a physical exam or yearly check-up and annual vaccinations. And every year you march into the chaos of the veterinary office with your dog in tow for your whole 15 minutes with the doctor…
Let’s face it, 15 minutes is not a whole heck of a lot of time. So how do you maximize this one-on-one time and cover the major topics with regards to your dog’s health? It’s simple – have a plan!
1. Make a List of Questions
Before you go to the veterinarian, jot down any questions that you may have regarding your dog’s health or behavior. Writing down your concerns prior to the exam will ensure you won’t forget anything once you’re there. Take note of anything at all that is out of the ordinary – has your dog been gaining or losing weight? Have their eating, water drinking, or sleeping habits changed? Have they been scratching or licking themselves more frequently? Ask about it! Things that seem small at first can quickly turn into larger issues, and early detection can save you and your pup a whole lot of stress (not to mention money).
Even if everything seems normal, there are still helpful questions you can use this valuable time to ask. Is the brand of food you’re feeding them the best choice? Is a brisk 15-minute walk twice per day enough exercise? Are there any supplements they would benefit from that they’re not already taking? Since your vet knows your dog and their health history, their insight will be much more accurate and helpful than, say, an internet search or a well-meaning pet store employee. The few minutes it takes to write down any questions or concerns will allow you to make the most of this extremely valuable time for your dog.
2. Know What to Expect
One of the best things you can do is to be informed about what should be done and covered during a yearly exam. Remember, vaccinations are only one very small part of overall health and wellness. Every day, clients walk into my practice with the perception that their dog simply needs “shots.” Unfortunately, this is more of the norm than you would expect. But when you understand what a complete exam truly looks like, you can ensure that your veterinarian is being thorough.
Make sure that your veterinarian looks at all body parts and major systems. This means ears, eyes, dental health, heart, lungs, abdominal palpation, muscle composition, joint health, weight, nails and paw health, rectum, anal glands, genitals… Watch closely to ensure the exam is complete. If your dog is over the age of 7, make sure to request some basic bloodwork so that you can evaluate internal organ health and gain a baseline.
3. Take Note of Food, Medications and Supplements, and Treats
Oftentimes, my clients assume they know the details about their beloved pet’s food, medications and supplements, and treats offhand, but it can be tricky. “Half a scoop” of kibble is not the most helpful measurement for a veterinarian… Prior to the exam, take note of the details – how many actual cups are in a scoop? How many milligrams of their omega supplement is your dog taking daily? What exactly is in those treats they gobble down so quickly? You can even snap a quick picture on your phone of the label or ingredients list, or bring in the pill bottles to the exam if it’s easier. This is helpful because, for example, if your dog is having digestive issues, the culprit may not be their food but rather something in their treats. If you know the ingredients, this will help your veterinarian spot any red flags.
These quick and simple tips go a long way in helping you ensure your pup gets the best care possible during their yearly exam. The better informed you are about your dog’s health, the better you’re able to help direct your veterinarian in bringing to light any issues, small or large – ensuring your canine companion stays as happy and healthy as possible, all year round.